Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

You Belong in the Zoo


I don’t like the zoo. I have only decided this in about the last year and it’s a difficult thing to decide that you don’t like. I have many enjoyable memories of going to the zoo as a child, with school, with my family, with friends, supervising excursions. Many of the children I educate and care for like going to the zoo and the zoo is seen as an appropriate, enjoyable and educational outing for families and early childhood services alike.

This is why I began to dislike the zoo… I was watching a David Attenborough documentary about animal migration. I think it was the Monarch butterflies that struck me the most. The adults have their babies and they fly together to one point in their migration route. Then the adults die. The babies continue the journey and always, always, always arrive at the same spot. Then they are the adults and the cycle continues. It was something like that. Then there was stuff about other animals who migrate, how they just ‘know’ where and when to go. And I was doing this… ‘but how do they know? HOW DO THEY KNOW? HOW DO THEY KNOW?’

And this intrigued me for weeks. It still does intrigue me. I read the Lynley Dodd story about turtle migration to the children at work to bring them into my bafflement of this.

And then after some time, I thought… ‘what happens to animals living in captivity?’ What happens to them when they have this remarkable urge to migrate but they cannot go anywhere? I imagined this confused, doleful, angry animal trying to understand how to break out of the zoo and migrate to where it needed to. I wondered if animals born in captivity have this urge to migrate. And I started to dislike the zoo.

And then once I thought ‘man, living in the zoo must really suck for animals who migrate’, a whole bunch of other issues popped into my head. Is it okay to put animals into environments that are not their own? I’m sure the penguins in the aquarium aren’t fooled by the fake snow. Is it okay to put aquatic animals into small pools where they endlessly swim laps? Is it okay to bring jungle animals to much colder climates? There is a Margaret Wild book called ‘Thank you, Santa’ where the child is visiting the zoo and watches the polar bear suffering in the heat. Many animals are given as gestures of political diplomacy- as if their lives can be traded for political means. Some animals are killed because they don’t deliver on increasing the genetic diversity for their species. Many zoos have progressed past the two metre cage for the leopard to prowl and snarl in, but just because the cages are bigger does not mean the life is better for the animals.

I realised that animals in the zoo are existing merely for human entertainment. They may not do tricks, but they are there for us to see, to photograph, to point and to stare at. And this is

considered an appropriate educational thing to do. What are children learning- that animals should be nothing more than for human disposal and entertainment?

I realise that many zoos do crucially important work for conservation and breeding programs and I respect this. But their main business is keeping animals in cages for the entertainment of paying humans. And this sucks.

Instead of taking children to the zoo to ogle the exotic animals, perhaps we should be taking children to places that are rehabilitating injured animals and are working for the conservation of endangered species. Perhaps the lesson could be the impact of human behaviour on animals and how we can change our behaviours to be fairer, more equitable and more respectful to all animals living on this planet.

*The title is taken from the old zoo ad that sang ‘you belong in the zoo, in the zoo, in the zoo’. No, they don’t. Wild animals belong in wild spaces.

© Awilda Longstocking, 2014

All Rights Reserved

Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates. Refuse, Resist, Rebuild.


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